Bye bye, Karaoke!

I couldn’t leave my #learningproject behind without a final reflection. Although I blogged about my overall experience in the Spring #ecmp355 course, as well as the process involved in my final Summary of Learning project, I felt that my actual learning of the guitar wasn’t covered adequately in either of those posts.

After all, my first video sounded like this:

I could barely strum a chord, could I?

And so to fill you in on my growth, I will review a few of the favorite resources that I used:

  1. this is a great site which allows musicians to save their favorite songs to “My Songbook”. Even better, you can change the key, so that if the song was submitted in a key that is too low or difficult to play, it can be transposed to any other key. All my songs are saved in my preferred keys, and I can pull them up digitally or print them off. The downsides of this site are that a) Occasionally there are songs from other sites that cannot be transposed, and b) Sometimes the people that create the chords aren’t correct, and you may not agree with what is posted. There is a way to suggest edits, but I haven’t dove into that yet. Overall, this is a great site to use.
  2. This was a great site that offered new guitar learners easy lessons that were simple to follow. Andy also provides a great variety of tunes to practice and learn. I really enjoyed this site!
  3. I do want to warn about some YouTube lessons. Not all instructional videos are created equal. If the video is going too fast for your current level, move on.

Lastly, and this applies to any site, or with any songbook: just because someone rates a song as “easy beginner” does not mean it is going to be easy, or is even FOR a beginner. “Easy” is relative, and an “Easy” Beetles song may actually take a lot of work and contain chord changes that are not easy. Know what you can play, and look through the songs, especially before spending money.

By comparison to those early beginnings, I wanted to offer you a sense of my improvement. My newest video was so focused on the singing, lyrics and video, that the guitar playing was a bit lost in the shuffle. Nonetheless, here is a behind the scenes look at the playing behind the video:

And just for fun, here is a final rendition of Brown Eyed Girl. I can’t think of a better baseline comparision, since I started with this song:

My strumming isn’t great, since everyone in my household had gone to bed, and I was trying to play quietly and not belting it out like my usual self. However, I think it demonstrates that I now feel more comfortable changing chords.

And do you know what that means?? Bye bye Karaoke, hello guitar! If you have a song that you think I should add to my playlist, please comment below!





7 weeks and 13 classes in 3:46

For my summary of learning, I wanted to demonstrate not only my learning from the course, but my #learningproject as well. I watched some other past projects that had parodied songs, and I came up with the idea to use my newly developed skill of playing the guitar, rewrite the lyrics and perform a song to summarize our learning.  I chose “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel because 1) it is a favorite of mine, 2) it was already in my list of songs that I had been practicing, and 3) although not a melodic masterpiece, it continues to stand the test of time with numerous parodies, covers, derivations and takeoffs.

As I started writing about the different technologies and concepts that we had covered in class, various lessons and experiences came to mind. It occurred to me that our individual journeys through the course had been just as varied as our backgrounds! I considered our special edition #saskedchat, and reflected that how we each felt about the experience had ranged from comfortable to cautious to chaotic! In reality, specific aspects of the course had offered a steeper learning curve to particular students. But, our class had created a supportive learning environment for everyone. That was the purpose in “contributing to the learning of others” and I realized that it was the effort I put into my online interactions that had led me to acloser understanding of some of my fellow classmates and their #edtech journeys.

I set about writing my lyrics; concepts, technologies and ideas pummelling the screen from my keyboard. There were so many that I had to decide what was most important, how to group them, and make them rhyme!  And as these ideas flooded out, they reminded me of different classmates. I had a brainstorm and sent a quick message to McKaila:


I once told my daughter that I really knew around 95% of the students in my Middle Years cohort. When she asked me, “What about the other 5%?” I became determined to get to know them too. It was the same with this project. I realized that it wasn’t enough to just randomly match a person to a idea, I wanted to choose something that was meaningful to that person.

I asked another classmate for a selfie, and then another. I thought of Val, and her frustrations with YouTube when uploading her videos. I remembered Brayden and his love of the Zoom Breakout rooms.  In typical “Amie” style, it became obvious that if I wanted to showcase my classmates, I would have to include them all.

So what started out as a quick video compilation turned into a long, interesting, insightful exploration into the blogs, tweets, comments and reflections of all of my classmates! I wanted to really listen/read/understand their struggles and accomplishments.  My goal was to try to capture and honour their learnings, but in the process I found myself responding to their inspirations, struggles and successes.

As my lyrics developed, I couldn’t stop there. I reached out to our guest speakers, to honour and include those who had made our class meaningful and relevant. I approached my PLN, taking to heart the idea that in life-long learning, we are both students and teachers.

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Believe it or not, all that I’ve mentioned so far was the easy part! Having never created this type of project before, I settled on Windows Movie Maker 2012. Although a steep learning curve, I found it was easy to use. While I awaited content from my peers, I borrowed a Capo from Kendra Leier and recorded my song using Zoom. Billy Joel once said, “It’s a nightmare to perform live, because if I miss one word, it’s a train wreck.” Considering his comment, I don’t feel so bad that I wasn’t able to record my version straight through. Adding all the pictures, changing the timing, and adding/merging 8 different music clips successfully all proved to be challenging tasks on their own. If I had to do one thing over, I would include subtitles because some of the lyrics aren’t as clear as I would like. However, at the end of the day, I am satisfied that it is a respectable compilation of our #ecmp355 learning experience.

So what will I take away from this experience for my future as a teacher?

  1. A big part of who I am is about making connections. Until this project, I don’t think I realised just how important it is to me to understand those around me. My favorite part was digging into my classmates’ reflections and trying to identify something that would have meaning for each of my peers. I hope I succeeded.
  2. I will definitely use Movie Maker again. I will also be looking for creative ways to incorporate technology into Grade 6, 7 and 8 Arts Ed projects in the fall. If you have ideas or lesson plans, I would love to hear them!
  3. Learning the guitar was a process! I started out very frustrated, and really thought I wouldn’t be able to reach my goals. However, I was determined, and I have developed the callouses to prove it! Learning a new skill as I head into internship is a valuable reminder of what it feels like to struggle. I will remember to treat my own students with empathy and encouragement, especially when they are learning new skills.

Finally, I am so glad that I decided to learn how to play the guitar! I set out to learn for both professional and personal reasons, and it paid off. I have improved significantly, and I know enough chords to accompany myself and others. I have found online apps like Chordie that will change the key to G or D, something easier for me to play.  Most of all, it gives me a creative outlet to express myself, which is perhaps the greatest reward of all.

The elephant in the room plays the guitar

So I wanted to give everyone an update on my #learningproject. You may have seen my last rendition of Brown Eyed Girl, recommended as an easy campfire song, courtesy of this site. I have still been practicing that one, so here’s a little update – with traditional chord fingerings, which is tricky with the C major chord:


Now you may be wondering, “where is the new material?” After my last post, I sent out a tweet to poll the Twitterverse as to what song I should learn next.  I was pretty excited that the winner was “Sweet Home, Alabama” by Lynard Skynard. It was listed as an easy Campfire song, however, when I went online to learn how to play it, this was the video I pulled up.

Frankly, as soon as I heard the picking, I thought, “what the heck did I get myself into!” Now, this video focused on the strumming, but to be honest, I was really overwhelmed by the speed of this video and after 20 minutes of struggling through this, and only kind of getting the strumming down, I totally bailed on this song (and hoped that no one would remember my poll!)

I went back to practicing other songs that I had been working on – mostly by the Beatles: I Want to Hold your Hand, Yellow Submarine, Let it Be and Hey Jude. It was pretty rough at first, but here’s a video of how it sounds now.

Since I was still struggling with some of my transitions, I decided to google “easy guitar chords youtube”. Much to my delight, I found Andy Guitar! Not only did he solve my transition issues, but he had a tutorial for Sweet Home Alabama! The elephant was still in the room, and he was playing a guitar! After a few minutes working through this video, I knew I would be able to tackle this song!


So here is my attempt, after only 1 day of practice!

So, granted, I was still super rusty, but I felt like Andy’s chord transition would help me with so many songs! I was pumped to be back on track and dying to see if it would help with my Brown Eyed Girl transitions. Here’s how it sounded, what do you think?

My next goals are to keep improving my transitions, and also finger placement. Andy has a tutorial about sore fingers caused by poor positioning, so I want to work on being more comfortable while playing.

I am building up a repertoire of songs that I practice, and I plan to keep Sweet Home Alabama in that rotation. I’m glad that I didn’t give up on it, even when it seemed impossible. Sometimes coming at things from a different angle is all that’s needed to get back on track.

Slow and painful plays the chord?

I officially have bruised my fingertips. I am definitely coming along with learning the guitar chord fingering, but boy, it is time for a break today! I am sure I will build up some callouses soon – the quicker the better in my book.

The upside; I am starting to memorize the chords. And I am having fun.

Want to witness what progress looks like? Take a listen…

And if you want to help choose my next song attempt, visit me on Twitter to choose from my 3 song choices:



Why do I HAVE to learn this?


Well, I have to be honest – I had a really rocky start to my #learningproject. I started out with the Rockstar Academy lessons, which are slow and steady. However, Lesson 1 taught the parts of a guitar, the chords C and G, and some strumming exercises. I got through it, but even though my head knew what to do, my fingers hurt! Now I remember why I never learned how to play before, guitar is hard!

I was deflated. Why did I pick guitar? I could have picked something so much easier than this. A hundred things ran through my mind. And… I stalled. I didn’t have much motivation to practice and a mountain of lessons didn’t seem surmountable. But, I figured, ANY learning project is going to have some hurdles, setbacks and times when you are just unmotivated. So I figured I better jump back in and DO THIS!

I needed a little motivation, so I skipped ahead to lesson 3, which introduced E, D and A chords and suggested strumming these and adding in C and G, which I remembered but wanted to see the fingering. Rather than flipping back to lesson 1, I skipped over to Google and easily found a Guitar Chord image. It’s handy to have in front of me when I am trying to play a song and learn the chords.

Woohoo, now that I knew what my fingers were supposed to do, I wanted to try to play something. I abandoned the lessons for the day and googled easy guitar songs, settling on this site. I figured Brown-Eyed Girl by Van Morrison wasn’t too hard, too fast and I could sing along!

It was a pretty rocky rendition, since there are lots of chord changes, but hey, it’s a song! After feeling pretty bummed, I am actually believing that I will be able to learn the guitar well enough to enjoy it!

So, stay tuned for my next video, where I will actually reveal my progress.

In the meantime, do you have any tricks to overcome lack of motivation? How do you jump start yourself?


Striking a pose, and a chord

So the #learningproject I decided to tackle is playing the guitar. I decided to dress the part, because as Edith Head said:

So I am dressing for it, at least today!

I am finding that there are many other skills I need to learn in order to document my learning! Just in preparing to learn, I needed to get really familiar with the Screencastify extension for Chrome… and found out that I can do tab, desktop AND cam recordings!  I recorded the video below all at one time, but I am not sure what I will do if I want to combine bits of video together or add voice overs afterwards.

I also needed a place to upload my videos to, since I have never uploaded videos online. During my pre-internship, April Hoffman and I recorded video reflections, like this one after “Wacky Wednesday” at our school. We just used April’s channel. Therefore, step two to produce this video was creating my own YouTube channel.

Lastly, I managed to upload my video to my YouTube channel, and edit the title and description. I even changed the video thumbnail photo using YouTube Video Manager and found all kinds of other things I could edit! Despite our course title, I was not expecting to have so many types of technology to catch up on in order to learn something that’s not technological! Also, I came into this thinking I was pretty tech-savvy. Even for an online learning project, there is a lot more to it than just googling resources!

So without further ado, here is my first video. You may have seen that I can “strike a pose”, but you will have to watch the video to witness my first chord.


Stay ‘tuned’ for more of my learning reflections, and please comment if you have any suggestions for me on the guitar learning. Oh heck, even the wardrobe is fair game.